Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles likely team favorites as San Luis Obispo County track meet turns 40

San Luis Obispo boys and Nipomo girls are also expected to contend for team titles

ajankowski@thetribunenews.comApril 3, 2014 

Arroyo Grande High’s Angie Gemignani, left, seen here with teammate Talley Hill at the PAC 7 cross country meet in the fall, will be one of the top girls distance runners at Saturday’s San Luis Obispo County meet at Cuesta College.


It’s the time of year when things start to get a little hectic for James Brown. 

The longtime track and field coach at Arroyo Grande High wears many hats in preparation for the Elks San Luis Obispo County Track and Field Meet, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

Field events begin with the girls freshman/sophomore discus at 8:30 a.m. Running events kick off at 10 a.m. with the 4x100 relay.

Brown is a part-time event planner, coordinating the transportation of all the equipment necessary for the meet from Arroyo Grande to the meet’s location since 2006, Cuesta College. 

At this week’s meeting of the Oceano Five Cities Elks Lodge 2504, whose members sponsor the medals and awards as well as officiate every event, Brown was on hand refreshing them of any rules and instructions. 

He also cooked their dinner as a thank you and still found time to coach his Eagles.

“Oh, it’s definitely a tradition,” Brown said of the meet. “I remember attending the first one in 1974 at San Luis (Obispo) High as a coach at Morro Bay.

“It’s one of those things that we look forward to every year.”

The tradition continues Saturday, when the area’s best runners, hurdlers, throwers and jumpers convene for a mid-season competition with far greater meaning.

“There’s a lot of pride and bragging rights in being county champion, either as an individual or a team champion,” Paso Robles coach Ivan Huff said. “You’ll see kids have some of their best performances of the season at this meet, because it brings out that competitiveness.”

It was held annually at San Luis Obispo High starting in 1974 before Arroyo Grande took over hosting duties in 1981. That’s where it stayed until 2006, when the lure of Cuesta College’s all-weather track and college facilities made it a more desirable location.

“It’s a great meet for spectators because you’re centrally located in the county, and you get a real track crowd there,” San Luis Obispo coach Adam Basch said. “There’s a lot of energy and the kids can feel that it’s a level up.”

While the team titles are expected to come down to Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles — and perhaps the San Luis Obispo boys and Nipomo girls — there are plenty of talented athletes up and down the county looking to make some noise at the local showcase.

PAC 7 champion in cross country and last year’s 1,600 meters, William Ernst leads the Tigers boys squad that includes 400-meter runner Raymond Smith, sprinter Nate Greenelsh and pole vaulter Cian Fernandez. 

Basch said Ernst is around a time of 4 minutes, 20 seconds in his 1,600, Smith at 50.00 seconds in the 400, Greenelsh at 11.1 in the 100 and 23.3 in the 200, and Fernandez has cleared 14 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault.

“We’re going to win some individual golds,” the coach said, “but we didn’t particularly set up to try and win the team title. We’re more thinking about the end of the season and getting guys ready in their events.”

The Arroyo Grande boys feature jumper and sprinter Mike Jordano and distance runners John Nichols and Joey Rodgers. 

Paso Robles has a pair of strong distance runners also in Kyle Ravera and Ethan Serpa, and Morro Bay’s Austin Lay — this fall’s Los Padres League cross country champion — is under 9:50 in his 3,200.

Huff said Marcos Condit is steadily improving in the jumps for Paso Robles, clearing 20 feet in the long jump and 40 in the triple jump. Teammate Jonah Cole should compete with 

Nipomo’s Jared Springer in the discus, Huff said. Springer posted a throw of 170-2 earlier this season, and Cole registered one at 160-3.

Two of the top girls distance runners, Arroyo Grande freshman Talley Hill and Paso Robles freshman Annie Meeder, will run in the freshman/sophomore heats held prior to the varsity runs on Saturday, their coaches said.

However, others such as Nipomo’s Kyra Meko — this fall’s LPL girls cross country champion — Arroyo Grande’s Angie Gemignani and Elizabeth Heyde and Paso Robles’ Madison Moore and Ashley Davis will help set the pace at the varsity level.

A pair of dual league winners a year ago, Paso Robles senior Samantha Anderson (100, 200) and Atascadero junior Angelica Cusworth (300 hurdles, 400) both appear on track in the early going.

Anderson is undefeated thus far this year while Cusworth is getting back to the 45-second barrier she cracked at last year’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 meet.

Arroyo Grande’s Josephine Graeber and San Luis Obispo’s Grace Torres are two jumpers to watch, with Graeber over 17 feet in the long jump and Torres at 37-5½ in the triple.

The Tigers’ Elizabeth Willey and Morro Bay’s Sierra Emrick have both cleared 10 feet in the pole vault this season.


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